New York, NY

Program Officer of Sustainable Environments, Surdna Foundation

The Organization

Created by John E. Andrus in 1917, the Surdna Foundation has assets exceeding $1 billion and an annual grantmaking budget of more than $32 million. The Foundation has a staff of 25, based in its Midtown Manhattan offices. Governed by a Board of Directors that includes fourth and fifth generation family members, the longstanding values of the Andrus family – practicality, modesty, excellence, and an appreciation for serving those in need – underlie all of the Surdna Foundation’s work The Surdna Foundation seeks to foster just and sustainable communities in the United States—communities guided by principles of social justice and distinguished by healthy and sustainable environments, strong local economies, and thriving cultures.

The Surdna Foundation has three grantmaking areas: Strong Local Economies, Sustainable Environments and Thriving Cultures. The Foundation provides grant support for efforts at the national, state, metropolitan, and local levels throughout the United States. The Foundation invests in the exchange of ideas across networks of people, institutions, and places with the intent of seeding innovative projects, programs, and policies and bringing them to scale across the country. The Foundation seeks grantmaking opportunities that include balanced efforts to: demonstrate the effectiveness of specific, targeted projects, practices, and models; advocate for and implement federal, state, and local public policies; and empower, mobilize, and develop leadership in communities and agencies to encourage civic participation. The Foundation recognizes its programmatic interests as interrelated and is committed to working cross-programmatically. At the same time, program staff has considerable autonomy and are expected to balance responsibilities to the Foundation, to their program, and to each other.

Position Overview

The Sustainable Environments program work is grounded in an understanding of the interplay between the environment, the economy, and social equity, and it is dedicated to shifting to a just and less consumption intense society. To this end, the program team has recently refined its grant making strategy to focus on overhauling the country’s under-performing and obsolete infrastructure. It is dedicated to addressing the urgent need for innovation around the renewal and development of what will be “next generation” infrastructure and to delivering basic services that tie together metropolitan areas, communities, and neighborhoods. More specifically, the program is now focusing its expertise and investments around four interconnected infrastructure elements:

• Transportation Networks and Equitable Development Patterns
• Urban Water Management
• Energy Efficiency in the Built Environment
• Regional Food Supply

The program operationalizes these lines of work through a social justice lens; viewing infrastructure Program Officer, Sustainable Environments planning and build out in low-income communities and communities of color as a driver for investment that generate multiple benefits including wealth creation, environmental quality and democratized decision-making. The Sustainable Environments Program has a budget for the coming year of $9.25 million and anticipates making between 55-65 grants annually. In addition, The Surdna Foundation uses its expertise in the built environment and the community investment realms and partners with its colleagues in its Strong Local Economies and Thriving Cultures programs to integrate economic and cultural elements in the strategies the Foundation uses to achieve the changes it seeks.

The Program Officer is part of a four-person team led by a Program Director and staffed by two Program Officers and a Program Associate. The Program Officer works closely with the team on all aspects of the program, including day-to-day operations, broader program strategy development, and the implementation of a learning agenda. Program Officers contribute to programmatic ideas and participate actively in grantmaking by developing and recommending grants and administering projects in the program area.

In addition, Surdna expects Program Officers to have expertise and knowledge in one or more of the substantive elements of the grantmaking program and to help build networks among funders, as well as grantees, around issues that need attention. Program Officers are also expected to communicate and advocate for social change and to develop partnerships to multiply the impact of the Foundation’s grantmaking investments. A successful candidate will demonstrate an eagerness to engage in ongoing assessment of the Sustainable Environments Program’s priorities under the leadership of the Program Director, and to work with the Strong Local Economies and Thriving Cultures programs to develop cross-programmatic opportunities that ultimately help advance the goal of creating just and sustainable communities.

During the first year of employment, the Program Officer for Sustainable Environments will be expected to:
• Thoroughly immerse herself/himself in the Surdna Foundation – its mission, philosophy, programs, staff, grantees, structure and operations, finances, constituencies, organizational culture and values, and potential.
• Become familiar with the Foundation’s grantmaking strategies, grant guidelines and theories of change.
• Contribute and apply current subject matter and field expertise to assess the impacts of the Sustainable Environments Program’s lines of work; develop the ability to communicate effectively about the work at a very high level.
• Begin to develop and leverage relationships with key internal and external colleagues, individual and institutional, in order in order to bring forth their best ideas and efforts to inform the work of the Sustainable Environments Program.

The Program Officer for Sustainable Environments will be expected to:
• Maintain a breadth of knowledge, including research, about current trends, emerging issues, policy interventions, and innovations in the program’s areas of focus to enhance the effectiveness of program strategy and understanding of staff and board.
• Monitor and track ongoing grants and initiatives, including evaluating and reporting to staff, board, and external colleagues on performance.
• Work closely with other programs at the Foundation and facilitate cross-program collaboration.
• Review, assess, and proactively cultivate grantmaking opportunities, assist grantees in improving proposal quality. Recommend grants for funding by soliciting peer reviews and providing critical analyses of project strengths, weaknesses and risks.
• Conduct site visits to pending and active projects.
• Develop relationships with public and private sector stakeholders whose activities contribute to program and mission objectives.
• Help to plan and implement learning opportunities for grantees, staff, and board. Regularly share lessons learned from the field with colleagues and board members.
• Work with and manage external consultants.
• Assist in external communications: develop Web site content, newsletters, public presentations, and articles, as appropriate.
• Develop partnerships with other institutions to extend the impact of the Foundation’s grantmaking.
• Track and contribute to the development of best practices among funders.
• Demonstrate leadership in the field through participation in external forums and funders’ collaboratives.

The experience and ideal qualities of an ideal candidate include:

Professional Experience
• Strong record of achievement and relevant experience in the nonprofit, public, or private sector. With a substantive knowledge of the fields and issues related to at least one of the Sustainable Environments Program’s lines of work, as well as experience in economic and community development, finance and banking, and/or public policy and planning is desired. A minimum of 8 years of professional experience in one of these fields or interdisciplinary experience is preferred.
• Advanced degree in a related field is preferred.
• A demonstrated grasp of core principles of social justice, sustainability and equity with experience working with diverse communities across race, class, ethnic, political and geographic boundaries.
• An understanding of public policy and political processes, and the role of the not-for- profit community in driving change. Experience strategizing and working with the public sector, and exposure to economic development, and arts, culture, and design and planning issues is highly valuable. 3Program Officer, Sustainable Environments
• Outstanding written and oral communication skills and highly developed listening skills, and an appetite for writing and public speaking. Qualities
• Demonstrated commitment to Surdna’s mission and to the values of the Andrus family, including practicality, modesty, excellence, and an appreciation for serving those in need.
• Willingness to work across programs to develop complementary strategies, grant making priorities and learning opportunities.
• A track record as a strategic, systems-oriented thinker. Excellent intellectual abilities and analytic skills coupled with pragmatism and a willingness to share in both “big picture” thinking and administrative tasks.
• The highest level of personal and professional integrity and a reputation for a balanced, nonideological approach. A willingness to challenge conventional thinking coupled with the ability to collaborate effectively, listen well, and encourage dialogue.
• Strengths in relationship building, teamwork, and collaboration. Outstanding relationship builder with interpersonal skills necessary to gain the trust and confidence of Surdna’s staff, grantees, trustees, and professional colleagues in the field.
• Ability to thrive when working under deadlines; strong project, time, and budget management skills; and the ability to handle multiple tasks simultaneously without sacrificing attention to detail.
• A willingness to travel up to 30-40% of the time. To learn more about the Surdna Foundation, please visit:

How To Apply 

Inquiries, nominations, and applications (a resume and cover letter) may be directed in confidence to Amy Solomon Consulting no later than Monday, March 2, 2015. Please contact: Amy Solomon at Please no phone calls.

Compensation will be competitive and commensurate with previous experience. Excellent benefits are provided.

The Surdna Foundation is committed to an inclusive work environment and welcomes a diverse pool of candidates in this search.

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